A recently published video by FortNine has the ebike community’s feathers a bit ruffled. If you haven’t caught on by now, ebikers are very defensive of their bikes. After all, electric bikes are often misunderstood by those who have never tossed a leg over one.
Some cities have banned ebikes in bike lane, but usually later reversed that decision. Federal and state parks can have different rules about what kind of ebike is allowed on their trails. It gets complicated, but are electric bikes more unsafe than a motorcycle?
In some instances I would say yes. I happen to live in an industrial city that is slow to adopt new technologies and fashions. Bike lanes? What are those? Heck, a lot of our streets don’t even have sidewalks for pedestrians.
I think somewhere around the 1950s it was decided that nobody would ever walk or ride a bike again. America was in love with their cars, and thus cities were built for cars, and not people.
So, is it dangerous to ride an electric bike in this city? Yes! It’s unnerving to ride along the side of a narrow road with cars brushing by at 35, 40 + mph. I hate it. I absolutely hate riding a bike on busy streets.
This was one of the main reasons why I supported the Juiced HyperScorpion during its crowdfunding days. Here’s an electric bike that looks like a moped and was advertised to go about 35 mph.
Finally, I would be able to keep up with neighborhood traffic and take my lane for better safety.
Well, the bike only gets to a top speed of about 32-ish mph which is still impressive, but unfortunately many drivers around these here parts only take the speed limit as a suggestion.
Either I’m out in front of traffic, holding everyone up, or I’m off to the side where drivers aren’t sure if they should pass me since the HyperScorpion looks like a street legal motorcycle.
The HyperScorpion does get more respect on the road than my other ebikes, but it just isn’t fast enough to keep with crazy traffic. And that stinks!
So it’s not that ebikes go too fast that makes them “dangerous”. It’s often because they go too slow.
There’s nothing like riding along the side of a busy road with loose gravel, broken glass, and nothing between you and a car that can kill you in an instant.
So what’s the answer? Well, bike lanes separated from roads are the best answer. Having some type of barrier, such as guard rails, and just more space to avoid accidents would do wonders, but that takes a lot of money and getting politicians on board. Yeah, we all know how well our political systems is working for us at this moment. Eh hem.
I think the best thing a bicyclist can do is make themselves more visible. Wear brightly colored clothes, equip your bike with bigger and brighter lights and reflective materials. I wouldn’t go too crazy with that because you don’t want to become a distraction. You just want to be visible.
The type of ebike you ride matters too. I noticed when I’m riding an ebike that looks more like a regular bike cars barely move over for me when passing.
When I’m riding the HyperScorpion they almost always slow down and take a wide pass around me. The form of the bike is recognizable as a moped or motorcycle, and while they too have their problems be visible on the road, they’re not as invisible as a bicycle.
Something else that ebikers can do is wear more protective gear. I’m guilty of sometimes hopping on my 700 ST in flip flops, shorts, and a short sleeve shirt. I always wear a helmet, and a very good one, but I often don’t wear gloves, knee, or elbow pads.
I’m not a speed demon on the bike but wiping out and eating asphalt at 18 – 19 mph is going to do some damage. And this is a bike that can go up to 28 mph. Wrecking at close to 30 mph is going to be exponentially worse than wrecking at 15 mph. You have to wear gear that can handle wrecks at that speed.
But back to the original question, are ebikes more dangerous than motorcycle? Hmm, I’d have to see the data on that one. I know here in my city motorcyclists are killed at a much higher rate than bicyclists.
Sometimes it’s the fault of a motorcyclist simply going too fast, or weaving in and out of traffic like a suicidal maniac.
Most of the time though, car drivers just don’t see them. I myself have pulled out in front of a motorcycle because it was hidden behind a light pole when I was pulling out of a gas station. It’s not like I went out that day intending to not pay attention to motorcycles. I just didn’t see it.
Ebikes, like any bike, have some inherent danger associated with them. You can wreck. A car can hit you. But there are ways to improve your chances. Ride smart, wear the right type of protective gear, get to know your bike’s behavior (they’re all different), and stick to traveling along safer roads.
For me, I hightail it as quickly as I can to my local bike path where the biggest threat is a squirrel deciding to cross my path under my wheels. I’ve about been taken out by more than one squirrel.
I don’t ride too fast for the conditions. If the pavement is wet I slow down, and I don’t go full blast down hills. You know, I just try to use common sense. On the bike path I’m much safer than riding along a road where motorcycles are relegated to.
I’m not buying that motorcycles are less dangerous, though I understand the danger of riding along the side of a busy street on an ebike. It sucks.